FIFA travel exemption may pit clubs vs. countries for March World Cup qualifying

FIFA extended an easing of its rules on Friday that frees clubs during the coronavirus pandemic from obligations to release all players to national teams.

The decision came with 135 national teams set to play World Cup qualifying games in March, and 48 more playing African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

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The scheduled games involve more than 3,000 players — many with clubs in Europe — set to fly around the world to join national teams. Argentina are set to play Uruguay on March 25 and Brazil on March 30.

Players who face mandatory quarantine of at least five days on any part of their intended journey, or government-imposed border restrictions that do not exempt professional sports, can be excused from call-ups by their national team.

The exemptions were introduced late last year as international football resumed amid a backlog of World Cup qualifiers in Asia and South America.

This ruling would not affect CONCACAF teams like the United States or Mexico since their World Cup qualifying campaign won’t kick off until later in the year.

Only one game was played in Asia in the whole of 2020.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said this week at a World Health Organization briefing in Geneva that no health risks would be taken trying to fulfill all the fixtures.

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